Grant: We know how much a derby means to people
After losing the first-ever Kolkata derby in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) back in November, SC East Bengal will be looking to make amends when they face ATK Mohun Bagan at the Fatorda Stadium on Friday. The last time the two sides met, it was also SC East Bengal’s first match in the Hero ISL following a short pre-season and their assistant coach Tony Grant insisted that a lot has changed since the first clash on November 27.
"The first leg was tough on us because we had only been together for a short period. We probably had eight training sessions maximum, we had just two weeks of preparation. We never had any games and to face your local rivals was a little bit unfair on us. For such a big game, we hardly could prepare and they had a set team over the years so it was quite tough,” Grant said at the pre-match press conference.
"But it’s a process and as it's gone on, we started to slowly improve and you can see that the players are enjoying the games. They are looking forward to the games. It was down to us, staff to keep working hard, keep pushing the players and making them believe and to help them by bringing in some of the new players. So, we’ve got natural progression," he added.
Grant then went on to touch on the magnitude of Friday’s fixture. “This derby has got a lot of history and memory. There will be good memories for the old grand dads. This is a huge game and we know how much a derby means to people. So as I’ve said before, the first derby that we had this season was a bit unfair but now it’s a bit more of an even playing field, hopefully we can do our fans proud,“ he said.
SC East Bengal head into the second Kolkata derby of the season having fallen out of contention for a semi-final spot following FC Goa’s 3-1 win over Odisha FC on Wednesday. However, Grant doesn’t feel that falling out of the race changes much. "It won't affect morale. We have a group of players, most of whom never played in the Hero ISL. Some players improved, some players found it too hard so it is all about improving these players. So even though we are out of the race, every day is a learning day over here," Grant said.
While evaluating the opposition, the Englishman made it clear that his team is not in fear of the opposition. "They have got good attacking players. They will get respect from us and we are relishing the fight and the competition. Roy (Krishna) has done so well over the years. It is just football, every team has players. We respect certain players, but we never fear anyone," he said.
Daniel Fox attended the press conference alongside Grant and the SC East Bengal captain expects a tough game. "It is going to be difficult. Every game is difficult. If you look at the likes of Odisha FC, they have got a good attack, Kerala Blasters FC have got [Jordan] Murray and Gary Hooper. It is going to be a difficult test, but we are all looking forward to it. Let's not forget that we have got a very good attack. It is going to be a tough game, but we are all relishing [it]," Fox said.